Advances in medical health treatments and public health programs are helping people live longer than ever before. The generation born after World War II, known as “baby boomers”, now makes up a significant portion of the world population.

In some countries, like the UK, estimates suggest that the baby boomer generation is growing faster than new babies are being born. In the USA, 45% of the population is aged 50 or over. Which means that the average age of the population is steadily increasing.

This is important because there is a common misperception that older people struggle with technology. As a result, most new technology developments are targeted at younger customers.

Why older people don’t use new technology

The reality is that given the right training, older people are perfectly capable of using new technology. The surge in Facebook sign-ups by the over-50s is clear evidence of older people adopting a product that many assume they could not use.

The difference between technology use by the young and old has a relatively simple explanation; almost all new technology is designed for use by younger people. Designers and manufacturers are deliberately ignoring the over-50s when creating new products and services. Quite logically, older people choose not to use products that have nothing to offer them.

Manufacturers are missing a big opportunity

By targeting products at younger people, businesses are actually reducing their potential customer base by almost half. Where products have been designed for older users first, manufacturers have seen sales increase across all age groups.

Take the motion detection system designed by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which is specifically designed to “see” when older people have had a fall in their homes. Using wireless signals, the system can monitor a person’s movement in their home, and alert friends and family if they fall over.

This technology is aimed at the elderly, but it has applications in other areas that benefit everyone, like burglar alarms or nanny cams. Again, the issue is not that old people won’t use technology, but that technology explicitly ignores them.

Helping older relatives online

Going back to the example of Facebook, older people have discovered it is a great tool for staying connected to their friends and family. Social networks give them a glimpse of people they don’t see as often as they would like.

As the baby boomer generation “catches up” (and manufacturers begin to create services better suited to their needs), we should expect to see them using more technology every day. But just as they need help to get started, most older people will also need advice about how to use technology and websites safely.

To make the process of training older people in cybersecurity easier, Panda Security has put together a handy guide here – How to protect the elderly online. And you can start protecting them now by installing a free trial of Panda Antivirus Protection on their computer today.